Tsuru For Solidarity Joins Direct Action to Shut Down Fort Bliss

On July 17, 2021, 40 members of Tsuru For Solidarity travelled to Texas to join national, state, and local advocates to protest the use of the Fort Bliss military base as an Emergency Intake Site (EIS), where thousands of immigrant children have been detained in inhumane conditions and without adequate medical care or services. In stifling 95 degree heat, we held a direct action at Haddox Park, just outside of Fort Bliss, to demand that the U.S. government end its ongoing violence against the children incarcerated at the military base and for the site to be shut down permanently. 

Fort Bliss is a former WWII concentration camp for Issei men who had been rounded up by the FBI in the days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like so many other Japanese American incarceration sites, Fort Bliss is being repurposed as a modern-day concentration camp for immigrant children. 

We brought taiko drums, art and banners, and tens of thousands of tsuru, thanks to our amazing Tsuru Committee. We shared chants for liberation and calls to action, and heard moving statements from Tsuru for Solidarity speakers Chizu Omori, Nikki Louis, and Paul Tomita. The organizations  included: Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, United We Dream, Detention Watch Network, Mano Amiga, Border Network for Human Rights, Witness at the Border, Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention in the Chihuahan Desert, RAICES, Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, and others. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to all of the Tsuru For Solidarity volunteers who joined together in making this direct action possible. 

A photo of Gail Nanbu, Chizu Omori, Nikki Louis, and Paul Tomita sharing their statements at the Fort Bliss direct action. Photo Credit: Pressenza, captured from Facebook Livestream.
A photo of Gail Nanbu, Chizu Omori, Nikki Louis, and Paul Tomita sharing their statements at the Fort Bliss direct action. Photo Credit: Pressenza, captured from Facebook Livestream.

During our time in Texas, Tsuru For Solidarity members worked closely with Haitian Bridge Alliance and Walk by Faith International Missionary Church to provide mutual aid to Haitian immigrants who were recently released from detention and abandoned by ICE at the local airport and bus stop in El Paso. Tsuru For Solidarity also held our first ever multi-cultural and trilingual Healing Circles for local organizers and community members, thanks to the tremendous work of the Healing Circle Committee and our outstanding facilitators. Using tri-lingual interpretation services, we worked with our community partners to host an outside community dinner for over 100 community members, organizers, and activists at Café Mayapán – a social enterprise that supports local food production and serves as a job and food employment training center. 

As many of you know, earlier this year, Tsuru For Solidarity helped to establish a National Ad Hoc Coalition to End Emergency Intake Sites with national and local partners. The Biden administration has used emergency intake and influx sites to detain tens of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children – many of whom were separated from their families due to the racist Trump-era Title 42 expulsion policy that permits the federal government to turn away adults and families seeking asylum at the Southern Border. While the U.S. government has claimed that the Title 42 policy is necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts have agreed that it has no public health justifications, and civil rights organizations have challenged this inhumane and cruel policy and its weaponization of the pandemic against immigrant communities. Because of this policy, families fleeing extreme violence have surrendered their children, unaccompanied, in desperation. Children travelling with non-parental adults – such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, or adult siblings – have also been separated from them and deemed unaccompanied at the border.

This ad hoc coalition worked with state and local organizations and activists to hold the Fort Bliss protest. In the days before and after our action, several whistleblowers have come forward to file complaints about the treatment of migrant children detained at Fort Bliss. These reports have revealed inhumane and unsafe conditions, lack of adequate medical and mental health services, and devastating accounts of child abuse. Meanwhile, thousands of migrant children have remained within Fort Bliss. And there are three other major intake sites that continue to function in the United States, including Pomona Fairplex, the former Japanese American incarceration site that detained more than 5,000 Japanese heritage people during WWII. 

We offer our deepest respect and gratitude to the local organizers and community members who fight tirelessly for the liberation of migrant individuals and families and against the interlocking forces of white supremacy, settler colonialism, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and hyper-militarization at the border. Our time at Fort Bliss underscored the urgency of this fight and the work ahead. We must continue to fight to free them all, and to shut these emergency intake and influx sites down forever. 

We were also reminded that a key part of this work is creating space for healing, rest, and joy – that our interconnectedness as communities is what gives us the strength and collective power against the systems we’re fighting. We hope that our broader Tsuru community has been able to find space for rest and healing this summer. 

To learn more about our action at Fort Bliss, please check out these pieces by KPFA and Pressenza. You can also watch the recorded press conference here. In the meantime, please join Detention Watch Network for its National Day of Action on September 23, 2021 – more details can be found here

A photo of Mari Matsumoto, Emiko Omori, and Erica Kanesaka with the Tsuru Committee’s beautiful flock of cranes. Photo Credit: Shoshana Arai.
A photo of Mari Matsumoto, Emiko Omori, and Erica Kanesaka with the Tsuru Committee’s beautiful flock of cranes. Photo Credit: Shoshana Arai.
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